Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett quietly signs pot fine reduction ordinance

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett signed an ordinance reducing fines for possession of small amounts of marijuana to $0-50 for first time offenders. (Photo: City of Milwaukee Mayor’s Office)

On Tuesday June 2, Milwaukee alders, by a 10-3 margin, passed a proposal to lower fines for possession of less than 25 grams of cannabis to $0-50 for first time offenders. That left Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett with seven working days to decide whether to sign the ordinance, veto it, or take no action and allow it to become city law.

Those 7 working days expired on June 11. On June 10, I called the Mayor’s office and they said they had no information and would call me when they knew. I called again late in the day on June 11 around 4:20pm and was again advised they would get back to me.

When I did not hear back Friday, I did more news searches and there was nothing. I then visited the City of Milwaukee website and found records showing that Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett had signed File#140697, “A substitute ordinance relating to penalties for possession of marijuana,” into law as a city ordinance before the deadline on June 11.

Screen shot of City of Milwaukee webpage showing the ordinance was signed by Mayor Barrett 5/11/2015 (blue highlight).

So, without any fanfare, formal announcement or notice by media, Mayor Barrett has signed the ordinance into law. The next step, according to the Milwaukee website, is for the Milwaukee City Clerk to formally publish the ordinance, which apparently will occur June 18.

While the fine reduction is a small step forward, it is a significant one, Alder Nik Kovac, who sponsored the ordinance, has also indicated it is only a beginning. There is broad support for extending the ordinance to second and subsequent offenses under a state law passed last year. With majority Republicans so far cool to pot law reform, advocates still hope growing public support could help statewide legislation like AB246/SB167, sponsored by Rep. Mandela Barnes and Sen. Chris Larson, get traction in the legislature and finally end the felony for second and subsequent offenses

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